Press Club condemns media tribunal

2010-07-27 20:42

Johannesburg - The National Press Club on Tuesday "strongly" condemned the media tribunal proposed by the ruling African National Congress.

"A government-regulated tribunal will amount to media censorship and hinder the media's right to report without restraint," said National Press Club chairperson Yusuf Abramjee in a statement.

"Such a tribunal relates to apartheid-style tactics where the media was told what to write and say."

He said the club would oppose any move for a tribunal.

"The media plays a vital part of any democracy and should regulate itself.

"We are therefore opposed to the proposed media tribunal as this will violate the rights of journalists to do their work," he said.

He called on President Jacob Zuma and the ANC to decline the proposed tribunal at the party's conference in September.

"We will keep a close eye on developments and if such a tribunal becomes a reality, we will, together with other roleplayers, decide on the way forward."

Since the dawn of democracy a proud history of freedom of speech and freedom of the media had been established, he said.

"Our Constitution guarantees this and it is vital that we continue to uphold this very important pillar of our democracy."

'Dark and evil path'

The press club was the latest media voice to reject the proposed tribunal.

On Monday, a group of three former newspaper editors who each spent decades opposing press censorship in the apartheid era, said it seemed the media in South Africa was again under dire threat of "anti-freedom" legislation reminiscent of that era.

Harvey Tyson, Rex Gibson, and Richard Steyn said in a joint statement that there were signs that all media might be under dire threat once more due to the proposed media tribunal and the Protection of Information Bill - now before Parliament.

"It appears to come in an uninformed attack by a few legislators who don't like criticism."

They said the appointment of such a statutory body would mark the first step onto a "dark and evil path".

"(It) would more than cancel out all the international goodwill the country earned through hosting the World Cup.

"Pause and think for a moment how the entire world's free media will, with real justification, react."

The proposal in itself created an ominous precedent. If it succeeded it could cause history to leave a black mark against its individual perpetrators and against the current ANC and its alliance.

Tyson is ex-editor-in-chief of The Star, a former member of the International Press Institute, and board member of the former Argus Company.

Gibson is ex-editor of the Rand Daily Mail, and Steyn ex-editor-in-chief of The Star, The Witness and a member of the International Press Institute.

'Strong rejection'

The SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) on Sunday expressed its "strong rejection" of the renewed proposals for the tribunal, saying it was "hostile" to the free flow of information to South Africans.

"Sanef points out that the proposed tribunal would go against the existing system of self-regulation which involves the media and members of the public, and would be unconstitutional," Sanef said in a statement, following its annual general meeting in Johannesburg at the weekend.

It resolved to work with other like-minded groups in a campaign for public support for media freedom.

It reaffirmed its commitment to the Press Council and Press Ombudsman system, "which deals effectively with public complaints".